by | Oct 20, 2021 | COMMUNITY

Chaz Robinson, owner of Sweet Sour Salty and Co., is endlessly friendly and endlessly knowledgeable about pickles.

Chaz Robinson, owner of Sweet Sour Salty and Co., is endlessly friendly and endlessly knowledgeable about pickles.

When we visited him on a Sunday morning at the Carytown Farmers’ Market, he chatted with his customers about their families and lives, not just about the pickles. But he had plenty to say about those, too.

Sweet Sour Salty and Co. is one of Richmond’s many businesses committed to sourcing locally and supporting regional economy.

“We are responsibly sourced, dealing with a lot of local farms and therefore our 16 different products are very seasonal,” Robinson said.

Many of their seasonal products are very popular, but people often come looking for them in the off-season. For example, “when asparagus is coming in locally, that’s when we pickle asparagus, but it’s very limited in production.”

Sweet Sour Salty and Co. started out with their bread and butter pickles, called Moneymakers, and their dill spear, but has since expanded. He started buying his cucumbers from a wholesaler, but in his second year of operation, farmers started approaching him with their extra produce including onions, radishes, apples and beets.

He says coming up with a list of products often has to do with what abundances farmers already have. “It’s more of what the farmers have to offer me and from there I will come up with the pickle.”

He says his best seller is his pickled garlic, which is called Dracula’s Dilemma. “We feel like if you’re in the pickle business, you’ve got to have a sense of humor so therefore all our names are kind of witty.”

The garlic sells three to one over everything else. He says he prepares the garlic using an old French technique, cooking the garlic three times in champagne and white wine vinegar with fresh herbs.

“People think oh garlic is going to give me dragon breath or come out my pores, but it takes all of that sharp pungent out of the garlic,” Robinson said. “It gives it that roasted garlic quality. It’s very sweet, mild, and buttery.”

He’s not kidding. My brain almost couldn’t process how smooth the garlic was. I wasn’t initially thrilled about eating a whole garlic clove, but his description was spot on.

He says it is always difficult convincing someone to try the pickled products in the first place. Once they do, people are always thrilled.

Robinson was a chef at a restaurant before he started Sweet Sour Salty and Co. almost four years ago. He started selling his wildly popular pickles for the restaurant, but eventually decided to go off on his own, with their blessing.

The hardest part about being in the pickle business is the actual act of pickling, he says. “For the cucumbers, it’s a two day process. For the garlic, it’s a three-day process. And that’s just from the time you start to the time you get it into the jar, vacuums sealed,” he said. “Plus, we are all hand done. We cut them by hand, pack them by hand, and spice them by hand.”

The process for the cucumbers involves a 24-hour fermentation on a controlled salinity and controlled temperature. The cucumbers are then washed, put in a jar with seasonings and the vinegar brine at which point they are vacuum-sealed.

He sells his pickles at a variety of farmers markets, stores and local restaurants like Southern Season and Alamo Barbeque. As if we needed another reason to head over to Lunch and Supper, you can find his pickles there as well.

Robinson said he loves being out at farmers’ markets selling pickles and interacting with customers. If you’re interested in chatting with him and trying his array of products, follow Sweet Sour Salty and Co. on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/sweetsoursaltyco?fref=ts

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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